This last week was kind of a bummer for me (within the narrow context of personal cycling adventures that is). I got news from both the Dirty Kanza and Leadville that my name wasn't drawn to participate in the 2018 versions of either event. I have to say, I am feeling kind of pissed off about it. Of course, I understand that these fields cannot support all-comers, but still, the lottery feels like the wrong mechanism for selection. I don't know what the right one is, but lottery just doesn't feel right.
Notices of my failure to be drawn in the lottery have also made me think about why I care so much. The rides at Leadville and the Kanza are hard in both cases, but I've ridden other rides that are just as hard. The belt buckle at Leadville is awesome, no question. I missed the biggie by only 6 minutes last year and I definitely want another crack at it. But I've gotten hundreds of medals and awards over the years; it isn't really about the belt buckle. Both are certainly "prestigious", in the same way that the Boston Marathon means something different than the local 26.2 miler. And both are great spectator events. Good enough that I can turn a hundred mile mountain bike ride into a weekend event with family and friends. But I am sure, without question, that my wife would rather spend our shared vacation dollars on a weekend that didn't include 4AM wakeup calls and hours of waiting around to spend minutes feeding me gels and liquid carbohydrates.
So in my reflection, I am reminded of the real reasons I ride. The hours spent out in the open, pulling into a headwind, working with a group or grinding away alone, and celebrating at the finish with new friends. I suspect that it was feeling like this that led guys like Chris Skogen and Jim Smith to start the Almanzo and Dirty Lemming. Tired of the ultra-competitive, exclusive and expensive events that were the standard of bike races until these guys created a new normal. Thank God for them.
I don't mean this as a rejection of Kanza or Leadville; someone could reasonably and rightly characterize this post as the ramblings of a disgruntled lottery loser. But instead, I mean this as an affirmation of the free events. The ones put on by your neighbors, that don't have corporate sponsorships and finish with a potluck in a suburban backyard.
So good luck to everyone that won the lottery. I'm still going to try to get in (I want that big buckle). But in the meantime, I'll be out riding in the postcard entry events that got me hooked on bike "racing" to begin with.